In the normal course anyone would be pleased over the prosecution of a doctor who built his empire through massive prescription of harmful painkillers. But no, US patients in Kansas state charge they have been denied legitimate pain relief by an overzealous government and are to sue it.
According to the indictment of Dr. Stephen J. Schneider (54) and his wife, nurse Linda K Schneider (49), more than fifty of their patients had died of drug overdoses in the last five years.
Charges against the couple were include conspiracy, unlawful distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death, health care fraud, illegal money transactions, and money laundering.
The doctor and his assistants wrote unlawful prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, muscle relaxers and other drugs. Drugs mentioned in the indictment included Fentanyl, Methadone, Morphine and Oxycodone.
The Pain Relief Network that is heading the lawsuit move asserts that the state authorities have put patients in mortal danger and created a public health disaster by prosecuting the doctor.
The state last month has suspended Schneider's license to practice, which forced him to close his Haysville clinic.
The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, seeks an emergency temporary restraining order. It contends the Board of Healing Arts and a Kansas district court ignored the danger to 1,000 medically vulnerable patients who have been forcibly abandoned and must now fend for themselves. The group contends pain is a significant cause of death, including progressive brain damage.
"Withdrawal for people who are sick is catastrophic," Siobhan Reynolds, president of the Pain Relief Network.
Patients held a candlelight vigil Monday night outside Wesley Medical Center, where one of Schneider's former patients was hospitalized four days after she ran out of prescription painkillers. The hospital would say only that she was stable.
"She was lying in an ICU bed crumpled up, incoherent. ... She was in a very weakened state. She looked very, very ill," said Reynolds, who visited Collins at the hospital over the weekend.
The Network contends that the suspension of Schneider's license served no legitimate government interest but harmed his patients because it forced the closure of his clinic. Since Schneider's arrest, other doctors have been reluctant to take on his patients, the group said.
The group seeks an emergency order forcing the Board of Healing Arts to restore Schneider's medical license. It also seeks to restrain the Justice Department from harassing a new clinic to be opened under a different doctor, Dr. Joseph M. Sack, at Schneider's now-shuttered Haysville facility.
The group wants an injunction against the Justice Department prohibiting it from confiscating patient files or taking any other actions to impede its treatment of patients in severe pain. It also asks that prosecutors return to the clinic patient files taken in what the group alleges is a violation of federal law.
The lawsuit also asks the court to appoint a special master to oversee the reopened clinic's financial operations to protect it from charges of money laundering.